A New Antibiotic Compound is Produced from a Common Plant

Researchers from the University of Lahore in Pakistan discovered that extracts of the “desert gourd” plant exhibit anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. The discovery could aid in the constant fight between medicine and rapidly-evolving microorganisms that acquire resistance to commonly-used antibiotics.

Throughout the world, bacteria are acquiring resistance to antibiotics that have once killed them easily. Many bio-chemists are constantly on the lookout for new antibiotic compounds that can help hold back deadly diseases. 

Researchers from the University of Lahore in Pakistan discovered a new antibiotic compound that can is derived from Citrullus colocynthis – also known as “bitter cucumber” or “desert gourd”. The stem of the plant looks much like an ordinary watermelon vine, but its fruits are hard and bitter. It is a hardy plant, capable of withstanding drought and the harshness of barren lands.

Various studies have revealed that the plant has certain beneficial medicinal effects. Its extract has anti-inflammatory, anti-convulsive, anti-fungal, and anti-diabetic properties. The researchers chose to study the anti-microbial and anti-fungal capabilities of extracts derived from various parts of the plant: the fruit pulp, its seeds and its roots.

The researchers tested the plant extracts on four different species of bacteria and four species of fungi. Some of those bacteria, like Streptococcus aureus, can act as a common cause of skin infections and food poisoning. Similarly, some of the tested fungi species, like Candida albicans, kill thousands of patients in U.S. hospitals every year.

The bacteria and fungi were incubated in the lab, and the various plant extracts were poured on the colonies. The results showed clearly that all eight bacterial and fungal strains responded to the plant extracts. As the concentrations of the extracts increased, so did their effect on the microorganisms growth.

The effect of the plant extracts on the bacterial and fungal growth. Source

While all the organisms were sensitive to all three types of plant extracts, the seed extracts were the least effective at inhibiting their proliferation. The antifungal effect was especially prominent in the case of the aforementioned Candida albicans.

These results are promising, even though further research is needed to verify them – especially as the research did not include any control group. Nonetheless, While the race between mankind’s growing capabilities and the evolutionary advancement of bacteria will not come to a stop any time soon, discoveries like this one could mean that medical doctors will gain the upper hand once more – at least for a little while.

The researchers behind this research were Bassim H. Hameed, Q Ali, MM Hafeez, and A Malik from the University of Lahore.

Original content by Nawartna

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